Records Manager and Archivist
Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart Fynn
One of the greatest pleasures of managing Archives and Records here at Loreto Normanhurst is the opportunity to learn about the rich history of those who have walked these hallways before us. Sharing accounts of sisters who gave their lives to this community is a wonderful way for us to celebrate and be inspired by their courage and faith. Their dedication and love has shaped Normanhurst into the community that it is today. Sincere thanks to the Loreto Province Archivist for providing access to some of the resources used in this article.
One of these women was Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart Fynn. Marion Josephine Fynn was born on 20 March 1871 in Kilmore, Victoria. She was the ninth of ten children to parents John and Jane Fynn, originally from Ireland. At the age of 15 in February of 1887, Marion and her older sister Teresa were sent by their father to board at Mary’s Mount in Ballarat. However it was only a few short years before Teresa was to enter the convent to begin her training as a novice. Teresa was given the name Sister Augustine.
Marion was warmly known to her friends as ‘Doatie’. There are several entries about her in the original school newsletter, the Eucalyptus Blossoms which tell us a little more about her life. In 1888 she wrote a short entry entitled ‘My First Visit to Loretto’ in which she affectionately describes her first impressions of the school. She was clearly delighted with every aspect of school life from being able to bath every day, to waxed floors, receiving gifts on feast days and feeling “just like a lily when I come from confesshin” (Fynn, 1888, p. 34). She describes Loreto with a strong sense of warmth and love.
In her final year of school, Doatie had the honour of being elected a school councillor. In addition to this we also know that she was a Child of Mary and Head of First Division, so she was well respected by both the sisters and her peers. Upon completing her education, Doatie remained at Mary’s Mount and served in a student teacher role. When she celebrated her 21st birthday, she was able to do so with her friends in the Loreto community, which is mentioned in the 1892 edition of Eucalyptus Blossoms.
In July 1893, Doatie Fynn farewelled her friends and family to head off on an overseas adventure. She sailed to France and was fortunate enough to study at a training college that was a part of the Cambridge University establishment.
On returning to Australia, Doatie made the decision to become a sister in the Loreto community, just as her older sister Teresa had done before her. Doatie trained as novice in Ballarat and made her first profession of vows in February 1901. Her religious name was Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart. Following the time spent as a novice, Sister Mary was able to teach, though sadly this was not for very long as she was diagnosed with heart difficulties in 1901. Frequently sisters were sent to Normanhurst, or South Hornsby as it used to be known, to take advantage of the fresh country air given it was advantageous for their health and well-being. Sadly, Sister Mary died on 22 March 1902, just two days after her 31st birthday. Formal community records also indicate that it was planned for her to move to Kirribilli in 1902 as she is listed as being responsible for classes as well as ‘garment keeper’ at North Sydney for that year.
The warmth of her own education at Mary’s Mount must have had a profound influence on the way in which she approached her professional calling as a sister of the IBVM. We can see this in the beautiful obituary written in the Eucalyptus Blossoms edition of 1902:
“The Angel of Death came in March to call home Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart, who died most holily and peacefully at Hornsby Convent. She had passed through our own Mary’s Mount School years ago, always noted for her earnestness and loyalty….None of us who saw her zealous work in the schools can ever forget the impression she made by it, nor can we grudge her going with such utter confidence as she did, to rest forever in the presence of that Lord whom she had served so bravely and well”. (Annals, 1902, p. 41)
Mrs Rowena Curtis
Records Manager & Archivist
- ‘Annals’. (1902), Eucalyptus Blossoms, December 1902, p. 39 – 41.
- Elliot, Theresa, (2007), Resting beneath the rainbow, Loreto Normanhurst, Normanhurst.
- Fynn, Marion Josephine, (1888), ‘My first visit to Loretto’, Eucalyptus Blossoms, December 1888, p. 34.
- ‘Marion Josephine Fynn’ (1871) Certified copy of birth certificate for Marion Josephine Fynn, 20 March 1871. Application number 3388. Kilmore Victoria.
- ‘School diary’. (1892), Eucalyptus Blossoms, December 1892, p. 45.
- ‘School diary 1893’. (1893), Eucalyptus Blossoms, Xmas 1893, p.40.